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UVA Student: Love’s Killing Isn’t at All Shocking…

May 6, 2010

UVA Student: Love’s Killing Isn’t at All Shocking…

Mary Beth Lineberry
Special to AOL News
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (May 5) — The death of fourth-year University of Virginia student Yeardley Love is unquestionably tragic, but is it really as shocking as the media coverage would have us believe? Looking at the prevalence of dating violence nationwide and specifically at the University of Virginia — where more than 100 cases of dating abuse have occurred in the past decade (and those are just the ones that have been reported) — the answer is an unequivocal “no.”

According to Justice Department figures, every day in the U.S., three women are murdered by their intimate partners. Eighty-five percent of intimate partner violence (IPV) is perpetrated against women — overwhelmingly against women who are between the ages of 20 and 24. While the details of Love’s case make it seem sensational — a varsity lacrosse player at a prestigious school allegedly killed by her lacrosse player ex-boyfriend — statistically, it merely fits the pattern.

Love’s death also exposes an unfortunate reality of college life that’s often obscured or silenced in communities, university and otherwise, nationwide.

At U.Va., it’s not so much that resources and advocacy about the dangers of dating violence don’t exist; it’s that students generally don’t think the statistics apply to them.

“The perception often among students is that such violence exists only for unhappy married couples,” said Claire Kaplan, the director of Sexual and Domestic Violence Services at the University of Virginia Women’s Center (where I’m the website managing editor). “In reality, IPV affects all types of relationships and all backgrounds and personalities of people.”

Kaplan argued that “cultural, social and institutional silence surrounding partner abuse is embedded in every person at U.Va.” It is part of a larger problem: People are culturally conditioned to dismiss violent and jealous acts perpetrated by men as “boys will be boys,” while the predominantly female victims are blamed for putting up with such behavior when things begin to turn sour.

It also doesn’t help that even those paid to ensure the safety of students don’t always seem knowledgeable about the facts surrounding dating violence. Early Monday morning, before news of Love’s death was widely known, a message from U.Va. Chief of Police Mike Gibson was circulated to students, faculty and staff. It did not sit well with fourth-year student Molly Conger. “The advice [he] offered … consisted entirely of strategies to avoid becoming the victim of violence at the hands of a stranger,” she said. “Locking doors and walking home with a friend will do little if that friend is the one who will later beat or rape you.”

In a bitter irony, some U.Va. students were already getting the right message before Love’s slaying. In April, they heard from Liz Seccuro, a 1988 graduate of U.Va. and a sexual assault survivor who travels the country sharing her story. She returned to her alma mater to address a Take Back the Night rally sponsored by the university. Chillingly, her remarks specifically addressed the dangers of intimate partner violence.

“The time has come,” Seccuro said, “to blame people who perpetuate these crimes.” But that won’t happen unless U.Va. and other schools “make a big push to educate students and be more institutionally proactive about interpreting such situations of abuse as what they are.”

Mary Beth Lineberry is a 2009 graduate of the University of Virginia and will receive her master’s degree in English literature from the school later this month.

  1. May 6, 2010 at 7:14 PM

    Thanks you very much for your post, and I think “Love” always good for live, and you can visit my blog to read more about “Love” and then you will…love more and more…..

  2. May 7, 2010 at 8:10 AM

    Good article. Thanks for including here.

  3. Christina
    May 9, 2010 at 11:43 PM

    I thank all of you that are trying to make sense of such a senseless event. I have skirted the violence epidemic and find it all very appalling, but as Robin Givens has said, until men get involved and say this is a really bad thing, we are no where. Also, it is not advertised WHERE a woman should turn to report anything and what are the guidelines of what to report. It is a very gray area on what to report and where to report it. I do not believe that the University of Virginia would have taken much notice if in fact Ms. Love would have made a report. I don’t think that the Charlottesville police would have done much to protect her against this man. She was in an intimate relationship with him and most don’t want to involve themselves in such matters. WE as a society need to be more involved. These men that believe beating women is okay or even disrespecting them are so wrong and they need to be toned down. What happen to men’s respect of themselves, yet alone the respect they should show towards women? Men have greatly gone backwards instead of forwards when it comes to proper respect for themselves and other women.

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